Thursday, 29 March, 2018 - 4:40 pm

In 1995, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, flew with then-Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair to attend the funeral of Yitzchak Rabin. On the way, Blair read The Daily Mirror. When he finished, he looked up, noticed the Rabbi engrossed in a book, and asked, “What are you reading?”

“Why, the weekly Parsha, the weekly Torah portion,” Sacks replied.

“Tell me what it says,” Blair said, and for the next few hours they talked Parsha. Blair loved it. For years to come, every time Rabbi Sacks visited 10 Downing Street, Tony Blair would begin the conversation by asking, “Nu, what’s going on in this week’s Torah portion?”

At a public dinner sometime after that flight, Blair said that Rabbi Sacks is, “one of his heroes... It was he who inspired me to re-read the Torah...and re-discover its power and its wisdom.” Because Sacks had the courage to be a proud Jew, the Prime Minister re- discovered the wisdom and relevance of the Torah.

For us as well, it is by being true to our Jewish faith and living not only in the politics of the moment, but with the Parsha of the week that we have been, and can be, an inspiring voice in the human story.

And so Passover pleads: It is good to remember the universal message of Judaism to us and to the entire world.

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times about a small fish called the Moses Sole that lives in the Red Sea. Those waters also contain sharks that feast on small fish. But a group of scientists noticed something strange. Although the sharks eat all of the other small fish of a similar size, for some reason they don’t eat the Moses Sole. The reason is the Moses Sole’s outstanding defense system. Whenever it senses danger, it secretes poisonous toxins that cause the sharks’ jaws to freeze.

You can watch a video of a shark bearing down on a Moses Sole with its jaws wide open until the little Moses is inside the shark’s mouth. All the shark has to do is make a blessing, bite down, and a sushi lunch is served. But the shark suddenly stops without closing its jaws and pulls back. It jerks its head from side to side, dashing around, holding its mouth open for several seconds, sometimes for up to three minutes. And the Moses Sole swims away.

For centuries, the Jews have been surrounded by anti-Semitic sharks in history’s stormy seas. That is what the Haggadah means when it says, “In every generation they rise against us and seek our annihilation.” And yet, like the Moses Sole, we have managed miraculous escapes time and again, even from enemies who are much stronger than we are. “Because G-d breaks their grip and we are saved.”

Walker Percy, the great 20th century novelist, wrote about the Jews’ remarkable survival in his book, The Message in the Bottle: “Where are the Hittites? Why does no one find it remarkable that in most world cities today there are Jews but not one single Hittite, even though the Hittites had a great flourishing civilization while the Jews nearby were a weak and obscure people?”

Percy continued: “When one meets a Jew in New York or New Orleans or Paris or Melbourne, it is remarkable that no one considers the event remarkable. What are they doing here? But it is even more remarkable to wonder, if there are Jews here, why are there not Hittites here? Where are the Hittites? Show me one Hittite in New York City.”

Empire after empire declared the Jews’ destruction. Yet those empires, like the Hittites, have vanished, while the people Israel lives. Pharaoh is a long forgotten, mummy in a museum. But the “Moses Sole” swims on. Tonight, we sit at the Seder with pride and humility, and by telling our story, continue our march across the ages.

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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